Wednesday, 29 February 2012

North Buttress East Ridge of Stob Ban

Enjoying the gloom!

The exposed 'snow' arete just below the exit slopes

Braving the cornice exit off Stob Ban!

Descending South Gully on Stob Ban

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

No gloves needed on Curved Ridge!

A moody looking Buchaille this morning

Stunning light on the walk in

Patricia enjoying the crux groove

Approaching Crowberry Gap on the only snow of the route!

Sneaking around the snow pack at the top of Coire Tullich

Monday, 27 February 2012

No 3 Gully Buttress

Approaching the 2nd belay on a very wet No 3 Gully Buttress (III)

This week I'm out climbing with Adventure Peaks regulars Patricia & Sheila on their annual visit from Ireland. Previous years have been blessed with amazing conditions and weather so this weeks fare is a bit of a shock to the system. In an attempt to find some ice we headed high on the Ben but with significant amounts of ice and rock fall in the corrie we opted for the safer option of No 3 Gully Buttress (III). The majority of the climb was still on snow but with copious amounts of water running down the crag it might not last much longer. There was plenty of avalanche debris from earlier in the week on the approach and we crossed a large crown wall in No 4 Gully during our descent.

The final exposed traverse at the top of No 3 Gully Buttress

Down climbing over a significant avalanche crown wall in No 4 Gully

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Chris Walker Trust

Two years on and he's still very much missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him but in his memory the Chris Walker Trust is now up and running giving out it's first grants for expeditions and ski mountaineering courses.

A mixed Jacobs Ladder!

Enjoying the delights of a thin Jacobs Ladder

The final day of this weeks mountaineering course at Glenmore Lodge dawned clear and cold. We joined a string of teams heading for Jacobs ladder which was 50% snow & 50% rubble but gave a good finish to the week as we topped out to some stunning views over a very bare plateau.

The view out across the Cairngorm plateau

Friday night film - Hard Winter Climbing

The Gathering, VIII 9, Second Ascent from Jenny Crook on Vimeo.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Last Route in the Corrie?

Friendly locals - Cairngorm reindeer

I'm currently on day 4 of a winter mountainnering course for Glenmore Lodge. However winter has gone! Today we headed back in to Coire an t-Sneachda for the guys to pitch some grade I ground using a variety of snow, direct and rock belays. A line of wet snow and ice between the Goat Track and Point 5 Gully gave us a good day out despite the rain and we were sheltered from the strong westerlies gusting over the Fiacaill Ridge above us

Warning - Reindeer on path!

Enjoying the 'ice'

Digging a buried axe belay in the rain!

The final pitch to the plateau

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Poor weather navigation

Map & compass and imaginary snow!

This week I'm working for Glenmore Lodge on a Mountaineering course despite a distinct lack of snow! With a pretty bad forecast we opted to stay low and explore the mysteries of winter navigation. However conditions were far better than expected and we spent a very present day in the sun trying to get lost.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Distinct lack of snow in the Cairngorms

A very brown looking Cairngorm

The Northern Corries were looking very spring like after yesterdays thaw as we made our way back into Coire an t-Sneachda for a skills & ropework day. We occupied a small patch of snow & ice for the day and worked through bucket seats, buried axe belays, direct belays, placing ice screws, climbing ice and abseiling off snow bollards before a quick dash over to the morraines to dig some emergency snow shelters. There was a worrying amount of rock and ice fall coming from the crags although Jacobs Ladder & Central Gully were both climbed.

Coire An t-Sneachda

The remaining ice in Aladdin's Couloir

Bucket seat belay

Reinforcing the bucket belay with a buried axe

Practicing good footwork on a bulge of ice

Front pointing on steep ice

The camera never lies!!

Abseiling off a snow bollard

Trail Runner photo shoot

A wee video from the team at Trail Runner magazine of our photo shoot from earlier this year. Just a stunning day to be out on the hills.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wet pants day!

Topping out on the Goat Track

This week I'm working for Glenmore Lodge on a winter mountaineering course. After yesterdays stunning conditions winter was disappearing fast today with a freezing level of 1800m and high winds. The Coire an t-Sneachda crags went from white to black in around an hour or less time than some folk took to climb them! Plenty of teams out on the Message (IV 6), Left Edge (I/II), Jacobs Ladder (I), Aladdin's Couloir (I) and Fingers Ridge (IV 4) although a number opted to bail. The heavy rain from the west extended further than forecast and we got a good soaking as we looked at ice axe arrest and developed the teams crampon skills around the Flat Ice area. With a good foundation to work on we wound our way up the Goat Track and on to the plateau. A brief parting in the cloud at Point 1141 gave us a glimpse of blue sky but the wind accelerating over the Cas Ridge gave us a real battle on the descent. The remaining wind slab in the lee of the ridge was being picked up and scattered but the majority of the snowpack was sodden and flowing.

Fingers Ridge (IV 4) started in winter & finished in (damp) summer conditions!

The Cairngorm Plateau snow pack!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Haston Line

Campbell West on Honey Pot (IV 6) from earlier in the year - slightly less rime today but very similar conditions - forgot my camera :(

This weekend I've been working for Glenmore Lodge on an Introduction to Winter Climbing. After yesterdays windfest and the monsoon forecast for the next few days today was a quick glimpse of what winter should be. The cloud cleared ahead of us to reveal well rimed crags as we headed into Coire An t-Sneachda. Today was the perfect oppurtunity to introduce the team to the delights of mixed climbing. Plan A was Hidden Chimney (II/III), plan B was Left Edge (I/II) and plan C was The Haston Line (III 4). With a traffic jam forming at the foot of the Slant and more climbers arriving all the time we accepted the challenge and went for plan C. The Haston Line proved a pretty stern test for their first experience of mixed climbing but 4 pitches later we were pulling onto the plateau feeling very pleased with ourselves. The route was in great condition with 2 distinct cruxes and plenty of enjoyable climbing in between.
The corrie was very busy with teams on the Message (IV 6), The Slant (I), Hidden Chimney (II/III), Left Edge (I/II), Original route (IV 5), Invernookie (III 4) & Fiaciall Couloir (II/III).

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Cairngorm tans!

Good ice in Aladdin's Couloir (I)

This weekend I'm working for Glenmore Lodge on an Introduction to Winter Climbing course. The weather forecast was particularly spectacular with snow, storm force winds and a risk of lightning to contend with. We headed into Coire An t-Sneachda where the crags were briefly illuminated in front of us by a burst of sunshine. However as we approached Aladdin's Couloir (I) the wind increased and the cloud dropped giving everyone a full taste of winter. The ice in the narrows is in great shape offering approximately 30' of grade II. We were blown up the rest of the gully by a very strong updraft which had stripped the snow back to the old neve. Topping out on to the plateau the wind was gusting around 70mph which made reaching the top of the Goat Track a good challenge. The descent in to the updraft coming from the corrie was completed blind due to iced goggles but things had eased significantly by the time we reached the MRT stretcher box for a spot of lunch. The walk out was almost pleasant as the wind died away and as we dropped out of the cloud we were greeted by a winter wonderland with a covering of snow down to Aviemore.
The new snow has been driven in on strong north westerlies and there's plenty of pockets of soft slab around with some cross loading on the Goat Track area. Drifts were knee deep on the walk out and there's a good couple of inches at the Lodge but any exposed areas are still scoured back to the old refrozen snow. Plenty of Cairngorm tans in the Lodge bar tonight!

The view as we dropped out of the cloud!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

'Winter' Navigation!

Stunning spring like weather!

Today I've been working for Jagged Globe on an Introductory Winter Mountaineering course. The team had had a big day out on Ben Nevis yesterday and there were a few tired legs so we opted for a couple of hours in the classroom revisiting many of the navigation techniques they'd employed yesterday. The early morning rain soon cleared and we drove up through Glencoe to the edge of Rannoch Mor and the West Highland Way path to Kinlochleven. These lower hills gave us some challenging navigation as well as some pockets of snow for a bit of step cutting.
Looking across to the southern slopes of the Mamores the mild weather had stripped much of the snow but there's still plenty to be done in the usual north facing corries (Ben Nevis, Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Aonach Mor etc). Back on the path we descended to Kinlochleven and a mug of coffee in the Ice Factor.

The basic slash for cutting steps in descent

More advanced descending but pretty unstable in windy conditions

Squalls and sunshine descending into Kinlochleven

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Boomerang Gully

Harder variations on mixed ground in Boomerang Gully (II)

Today I'm working for Jagged Globe on a winter mountaineering course. The guys had been out on Monday on Aonach Mor looking at the huge variety of skills required to operate in the winter environment so today was all about putting it in context. With a windy but dry forecast and very stable snow we headed up to Stob Coire Nan Lochan to have an adventure in a gully. We opted for Boomerang Gully which gives a great grade II experience right to the summit with plenty of variation for getting on to harder mixed ground on the ribs either side. The wind died totally on the summit for a great lunch spot before we descended via an abseil into Broad Gully.

Enjoying mixed ground

An exposed spot for a break but lacking a view today

Another Jagged Globe team belayed in the depths of Boomerang Gully

Friday, 10 February 2012

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Stob Ban - North Buttress East Ridge

Amazing weather on Stob Ban's North Buttress East Ridge (III)

A brocken spectra in front of the Ben

Topping out in to the sun on the crux chimney

Cloud inversion from Stob Ban with Ben Nevis in the background

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wind stops play in the Gorms

Snow swirling across Aladdin's Buttress in Coire An t-Sneachda